Critique from a Listener to the Lars Larson Show: Whose Side am I on?

I was recently on the Lars Larson Show, interviewed about the situation in Gaza. One of the readers had some criticisms which he sent me. I publish them below with my response. First his letter as he wrote it, then my interlinear response.

July 7, 2007
Professor Richard Landes
Boston University
Boston, Massachusetts

Dear Professor Richard Landes;

This is written to comment somewhat critically of your thoughts as expressed on the Lars Larson radio program recently regarding the Palestinian question. The root problem with the Palestinian crisis is America’s creation of the state of Israel out of Palestinian lands in the full flush of U.S. world domination following World War II. The lands did not belong to the United States to give away. And this to this day remains the underlying source of antagonism that animates not only Palestinians but nearly all Arab Muslims. A secondary matter is the power which American Zionist interests hold largely in terms of social propaganda over the American body politic, most obviously in this country’s Middle East foreign policy. In order to maintain the fiction of moral authority of Israel over the Arab world, American Zionists have crafted an entire view of the world that isolates the United States and leads it into its many wars in the region. Since the early 1960s, America has foolishly dedicated its considerable powers to preserving the Jewish state in the Middle East at enormous cost to itself as to the countless millions of Arab Muslims who protest this state of affairs. Frankly speaking, by the direction of your own political dialogue on the Lars Larson radio program, one suspects a similar dedication to the Zionist cause. If so, it would be more objective and sincere that you announce your position unilaterally favoring the Israel side and not speak with words that imply dedication to American national interest.

Here’s my response.

    This is written to comment somewhat critically of your thoughts as expressed on the Lars Larson radio program recently regarding the Palestinian question. The root problem with the Palestinian crisis is America’s creation of the state of Israel out of Palestinian lands in the full flush of U.S. world domination following World War II. The lands did not belong to the United States to give away. And this to this day remains the underlying source of antagonism that animates not only Palestinians but nearly all Arab Muslims.

I’m interested in where you get your information. I was unaware that the US created the State of Israel in 1948. Indeed, it was touch and go whether the US would vote for Israel, and the State Department (following the lead of the British Foreign Service) was, if I remember my diplomatic history of that period, very much opposed. (E.g., George C. Marshall, the general of the Marshall Plan, who thought Israel would lose; so did the CIA [hattip: fp].)

There are three major players in the creation of the State of Israel: the UN which voted its creation, the Zionist movement which had worked for decades to create a viable candidate for statehood, ready for UN approval and with all the institutions necessary to hit the ground running, and the Israeli Defense Forces which fought back an invasion of Arab armies openly proclaiming their intention of destroying the infant nation and slaughtering large parts of its population. The US was a minor player, and for decades after (until 1967), not Israel’s main friend and weapons supplier (France was!).

You seem to be working from the script of the Palestinian Victim Narrative, with all its imperfect historical memory retrospectively revised (ex post facto) to explain their own failure, which therefore reverses historical causality. Thus they have no memory of when the US was not on Israel’s side; they think the British were working for the Zionists, and that the US, in some high-handed act of imperialism, created Israel out of nothing and imposed it on the poor innocent inhabitants of this land. I’ve referred to it as the “Post-Colonial Paradigm” (PCP2), which insists on seeing imperialism
a) as a very evil thing (I agree),
b) to be found only among Westerners (joke — its just the Westerners were the most successful imperialists in the modern period, in the 7-12th centuries CE, Islam was the most successful imperial movement on the planet), and
c) the USA as the worst imperialist force on the planet today (most powerful perhaps, but imperialist — by historical standards, not at all).

Your comment — “in the full flush of U.S. world domination following World War II — strikes me as just the kind of trope one expects from this retrospective (PCP) historiography. Today, with the US accused of insufferable arrogance and imperialism by a loud chorus of “alter-mondialistes,” that past gets rewritten to support the indictment. The US actually behaved with extraordinary generosity and respect for the law in the aftermath of WW II, encouraging the existence of independent institutions that rivaled it on the global scene (UN), offering a helping hand to the war-devastated French and the defeated Germans and Japanese alike. Although the US was by far the most powerful military force on the planet, it did not annex, or invade, or subordinate countries that any truly imperialist country would have.

For example, were the US a really imperialist force, President Eisenhower, the general who won World War II, would have responded to the crisis of Arab nationalizations — Suez Canal, petroleum production — by conquering and colonizing every oil-rich Arab territory to assure our free and cheap supply of so necessary a primary product. On the contrary, the US sided with the Arab rulers’ desires, forced Britain, France and Israel to abandon the Suez Canal, and allowed the Saudis to nationalize oil. When one thinks about how often the US has sided with (or intervened on behalf of) Muslims in the world scene when it counted — from Suez and nationalization, to Afghanistan, to Bosnia, to Somalia — I’d say the Muslims who paint the US as the “Great Satan” are profoundly unjustified in their hatreds. If anyone had a right to blow up the WTC, it’s the American Indians, not global Jihadis.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t an overlap between American attitudes and behaviors and imperialist ones. I can see where the argument comes from. But it’s based on a failure to understand a) what imperialism really is — libido dominandi, the lust to dominate, the overwhelming desire to control the lives of others, and b) how far from that Americans are in their very national character. No one, not even W, is arguing that now that we’ve conquered Iraq, we should take over. On the contrary, everyone assumes we want out.

What makes that anti-imperial position (when do we get out?) — as self-evident as the notion that “all men are created equal” — so exceptional is that there’s never been a nation with such exceptional military superiority to everyone else, who didn’t use it to conquer near and far. (And that certainly goes for Muslims, repeatedly, throughout their history.) So no, I don’t think America is an imperialist power, and I think that Europeans who accuse us of that, are driven by their envy and resentment that we’ve replaced them as the most powerful and influential culture on the globe (largely because we are less aristocratic and hierarchical). And Americans who agree with them, imnsho, sell their own people short.

I may be assuming that you are arguing something you’re not, but my feeling is that your outline of what happened is
a) inaccurate to the point of falsifying history
b) produced by people who are hostile to the US, and think of us as imperialist oppressors who need to be defeated (or at least taught a lesson)
c) crafted to give justification Arab complaints against the US for siding with Israel, and therefore justify that hostility.

This final point (c) comes out clearly in your remark: And this to this day remains the underlying source of antagonism that animates not only Palestinians but nearly all Arab Muslims.

First off, there was no Palestine back then, little more than a few (Arab nationalist) intellectuals who even spoke about Palestine then. The very notion that this is about stealing Palestinian lands is a distorting lens with which to understand what happened. Not that there weren’t Arabs, in particular Arab Muslims, who had land they lost in the conflict. That happened, no question.

The issue, where the question of policy is concerned, is why did this catastrophe happen. If you package it as an Israeli aggression against innocent Palestinians (as you seem to), one nation stealing another nation’s existence away, then you fail to grasp what happened. Instead, you have a false sense that Arab culture operated more or less the way Western culture did, and that the defining identity of these Arabs who were displaced was nation (rather than tribe, clan, or religion). This produces on the one hand, our receptivity to the other Arabs prolonging the “refugee problem” by making the Arabs who fled an Arab war live in concentration camps awaiting return to their homes (and homeland), and on the other it feeds our fantasies that if we can create a Palestinian nation we can solve the problem.

But if the issue of nation is not the fundamental one, if the cause of Palestinian suffering comes from a different set of problems, then creating a Palestinian nation is guaranteed to produce unanticipated results, many of which — given the experience of Olso — look fairly dangerous.

I personally contest your “nation-state” reading of what happened in 1948, and the implication that aspirations for national independence lie at the core of the Arab beef with Israel, and ask you to read my analysis of what animates the antagonism of the Arabs against Israel: the humiliation created by the very existence of an independent Jewish state in the midst of Dar al Islam.

Arab resentment of the USA comes from similar sources: the same humiliation and sense of inferiority that brushing up against Israel causes, but this time on the global scale. Bin Laden may frame his complaints about the USA in Saudi Arabia in theological language, but it was also unbearably humiliating for him to have his Saudi cousins invite the Americans to fight the Iraqis in Kuwait when he, who had just chased the Soviets from Afghanistan and brought down one of the (two) evil empires, had offered his services.

The important point here is not that your position isn’t “reasonable” — and as supported by evidence as mine. It’s a legitimate one. And under normal circumstances, we could agree to differ, just as Ptolomean and Copernican astronomers could differ without grave consequences in the 16th century. But don’t try to send a space ship beyond the solar system using Ptolomean calculations. And don’t try to resolve the enormous and highly volatile issue of Arab/Muslim sense of grievance with liberal cognitive egocentrism. Because if you do, it will blow up in your face… as I will argue below.

    A secondary matter is the power which American Zionist interests hold largely in terms of social propaganda over the American body politic, most obviously in this country’s Middle East foreign policy. In order to maintain the fiction of moral authority of Israel over the Arab world, American Zionists have crafted an entire view of the world that isolates the United States and leads it into its many wars in the region.

Now you have me intrigued. Why do you think that Israel’s moral authority over the Arab world is a fiction. On the one hand we have a progressive state by any standards — free and highly self-critical press, free elections, minority rights, social services, exceptionally developed and “color-blind” medical care, progressive income tax, proliferation of progressive watchdog and other NGOs, exceptionally independent judicial system, no death penalty, freedom of worship — under extremely difficult circumstances. On the other, impoverished, oppressed populations ruled over by thugs and violent religious zealots, captive media, subservient judicial systems, no legal protection for dissent, honor-killings, vendettas, summary executions in the streets… need I go on. And that doesn’t even begin to address the gap in “ethics of warfare.”


By any progressive standards, Israel’s moral superiority to the surrounding Arab nations is so huge it’s literally embarrassing.

Now it’s fine with me if you don’t want to rub the Arabs’ nose in their own moral degradation, but please, don’t present yourself as an American dedicated to the values that made this country great — equality before the law, freedom of speech, assembly, and religion, balance of powers, elections, etc. — and then tell me you think Israel’s moral superiority to the Arab world is “fictive.” What on earth are you thinking?

Now we get to the heart of the issue: “American Zionists have crafted an entire view of the world that isolates the United States and leads it into its many wars in the region.”

Your point, if I understand correctly, is that by using moral arguments to convince the US to support Israel, the American Zionists have made the US the object of Arab/Muslim hatred, and isolated it from the rest of the world (especially Europe), which has a much more “balanced” view of the Arab Israeli conflict. This is, if I’m not mistaken, basic Walt-Mearsheimer. And it’s why I’m taking the trouble to answer your note in such detail. Nothing is more significant than this issue: how does America deal with its current global solitude?

You seem to suggest that if we stopped giving so much support to Israel, things would go better; and in order to feel comfortable arguing that, you seem ready to grant that Israel’s claim to the “moral high ground” is gone (if it were ever there). I’d like to suggest that what you counsel is to toss the Israelis into the maw of an Islamic death cult that will not thereby cease or be satisfied, but that will flare up all the more intensely, fed by its victory and by the West’s failure… in other words, your council (and Jimmy Carter’s and Walt-Mearsheimer’s) is a form not just of appeasement, but surrender.

The Muslims have demanded that you sacrifice Israel — the only democracy in the region — on the altar of their honor (and in defense of their authoritarian regimes), and you are willing to do so, in the hopes that somehow that will make them like us more. This counsel represents not only cowardice but folly, and it will reap the whirlwind. This is the French policy (till now, who knows with Sarkozy?), the Eurabian policy: Israel is a shitty little country, an easy sacrifice.

But no, that is a fatal sacrifice. As a friend who was in Tunisia at the time of the French “veto” of American intentions to invade Iraq (Winter 2003) put it: They see this as a sign of French weakness. They know that Saddam is an enemy of the West, and that France’s natural ally is America. So if France attacks their friend and protects their enemy, it’s because they’re afraid. And that’s without even making recourse to the explanation from resentment. Meantime the French think that they’re being brave because: “Courage is attacking the strongest, and America is the strongest.”

    Since the early 1960s, America has foolishly dedicated its considerable powers to preserving the Jewish state in the Middle East at enormous cost to itself as to the countless millions of Arab Muslims who protest this state of affairs. Frankly speaking, by the direction of your own political dialogue on the Lars Larson radio program, one suspects a similar dedication to the Zionist cause. If so, it would be more objective and sincere that you announce your position unilaterally favoring the Israel side and not speak with words that imply dedication to American national interest.

One of the things that distinguishes civil society from prime divider societies, is friendship based on shared values. In the prime divider world of “rule or be ruled,” there are no friends, just convenient allies, to be used when necessary, discarded when not. The US and Israel share a great many profound values and emotions in common, even more than the US shares with Europe, including the exceptional freedom and creativity both encourage among their civilians, their commitment to positive-sum relations, and the exceptional degree of self-criticism they tolerate and embrace. You are counseling that we abandon a real friend (far more loyal in the UN than say, France…) for the sake of currying favor with a powerful and completely unreliable enemy. As the Tunisians remarked about the French, such a policy is a sign of both weakness and cowardice, and shows a very weak commitment to the values that have made the USA great.

It doesn’t take a moral genius to see who, in the Middle East, is also committed to such values. It also doesn’t take a moral genius to know that when the whole playground is mercilessly picking on one kid who’s small and kind of nerdy, but defends himself from bullies, that its shameful to side with the bullies. But it does take someone with true civic courage to stand up to the feeding frenzy and say, “this stinks.”

The sad thing for your position is that even if you don’t care about moral issues, and are willing, like Walt-Mearsheimer, to sell out the Israelis for purely “Realpolitik” motives, it won’t work. Alas, at the dawn of the 21st century, we have to show courage and generosity of spirit to survive as a democracy.

Of course that’s what our founding brothers did in order to found this nation. So why should we not rise to their challenge?

39 Responses to Critique from a Listener to the Lars Larson Show: Whose Side am I on?

  1. scannerca says:

    Some bothersome questions arose from the above statement:

    By any progressive standards, Israel’s moral superiority to the surrounding Arab nations is so huge it’s literally embarrassing.

    May we say: “By any Western moral standards….”?

    “We” tend to analyse actions and institutions by those Western moral standards, but what of the actions and institutions of “the others”? How can they be measured? Are their moral standards the same as ours? What are their moral standards? Can “the others” be expected to comply with “our” moral standards? Can non-Western states (and non-state actors) which do not hold to these standards be accorded the same rights as if they do hold them?

  2. shimshon says:

    i think there are some broad shared values we can speak of… In the arab/muslim world, as in this letter, there is the stigma on things such as imperialism, and the few running ruff-shot over the many. I think landes is right here to address the moral framework (giving a reasonable definition of the moral framework … imperialism) and then arguing specific points based on that moral framework. After all, this letter adopts “Western” morality (if we can call it that) and then shapes history to fit, not the other way around.

    I think it was important that landes saw the Walt/ Mearsheimer effect in this letter. Their book is coming out later this year, and i don’t want to sound like chicken little here, but this is one of the biggest challenges the jewish community in the US has faced in more than a half century. Americans are attempting to figure out what has gone wrong, and if history is any guide…well i don’t think i need to say anything else.

  3. Barry Meislin says:

    Clearly, repeating lies does in fact alter one’s “reality.” And the effect is cumulative. The points of view of entire societies can be altered, and now, with global communications, entire global communities.

    Though as demonstrated by, for example, the 1000 Year Reich, the Empire of the Rising Sun, and the inevitable Communist crushing of the free world, a “reality” based on lies has a nasty habit of crashing into the wall of, well, reality.

    More and more people around the world are basing their idea of “reality” on Palestinian “reality,” on Arab “reality,” on Islamic “reality.” Alas, if the trend continues, this can only have catastrophic consequences—and not only for Jews. (As if it would, or could, be only for Jews, as though the Nazi regime, for example, was a catastrophe only for Jews….)

    Regarding the US’s “favoring” of Israel—as though the US has not been trying to create a Palestinian state, has not been financially supporting Egypt or Jordan, has not been trying to create a viable Iraq, has not been supporting a free Lebanon, has not trying to find a way to protect the Kurds or the Muslims of the Balkans, etc.—as long as the US insists that Israel has the right to exist and the right to defend its existence, the US will always earn the ire of those for whom “fairness” and “justice” means necessarily that Israel must disappear.

    This is the real meaning of those who insist that the US can never be a fair arbiter between Israel and the Arabs; and the real meaning of those who insist that the US has sold its soul to the Zionists.

    And here’s a question: just what might happen if Israel did not feel it had support (i.e., for its existence) of its allies—or should that be, at this stage, ally?

  4. Dear Dr. Landes,

    I greatly enjoy your discussion and blog (I like your father’s work, too).

    This is just a quick note to correct a typo in your post regarding the Lars Larson show. The Secretary of State was Gen George C. Marshall — not “John Marshall.”



  5. Eliyahu says:

    RL, I think it was essential for you to start by refuting this critic’s claim about the US setting up the State of Israel, when the reality of US policy at that time was the opposite. This critic should also read two works which refute the nonsense of Walt-Mearsheimer-carter. 1) I L Kenen, Israel’s Defense Line; 2) Joseph Schechtman, The United States and the Jewish State Movement. It used to be notorious that the State Department [then under Sec’y of State George Marshall, ex-general] and the CIA [led by such as Allen Dulles] was opposed to Israel coming into existence. As you point out, the State Dept and CIA tended to support British policy which was frankly anti-Zionist, whereas Israel’s air force, for example, came mainly from France until after the 1967 Six Day War.

    Looking at your critic’s weird opinions, it is amazing how such big lies can be told about events within the memory of living persons.

    After dealing with the US position vis-a-vis Israel up to after the 6-Day War, we ought to direct this critic to the book by Michael Oren on the history of US-Arab/Muslim relations. Oren shows that John Adams and other US delegates learned from the mouth of a Barbary State diplomat that the Barbary Pirates were motivated by jihad ideology, although the word jihad may not have been used at that time. The raids on American shipping by the Barbary Pirates were going on more than 200 years ago, long before Israel’s renewed, modern independence.

  6. Joanne says:

    I’m wondering what wars Israel led America into. America has supported Israel with aid, but hasn’t fought any wars on her behalf. Unless this critic is referring to the Iraqi war. But that’s a canard, too: that it was the neo-cons who got us into Iraq in order to protect Israel. The war against Kuwait was not done for Israel; it was fought for Kuwait and for the security of the Persian Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, and the oil they possessed. Afghanistan? I can’t see how.

    I do think that Landes’ description of the U.S. role in the world in the second half of the 20th century is a bit sunny, however. You’d think the Cold War never happened. You’d think the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran never happened. You’d think the Bay of Pigs never happened, nor the support for–or attempts to establish–right-wing dictatorships in Guatemala, Indonesia, El Salvador, Brazil, Zaire, the Dominican Republic, Greece, Chile, Nicaragua, etc. Not to mention the Vietnam War! Sure, we were probably better than the Soviets, and we were certainly better than the medieval Muslim caliphates, but not as angelic as he describes.

    That we didn’t conquer these countries, but preferred to rule through proxies, well, empires had gotten out of fashion by then. And they neither economically viable nor profitable. But we exerted power nonetheless. That’s why the term “neo-colonialism” was invented, and not without reason. That we may have been benign many times was certainly true. But, like any empire or pseudo empire, we were mainly serving our national interests. Nothing wrong with that, except that we cheerfully pursued those interests (especially economic interests) often to the detriment of peoples around the globe. The U.S. benign? Just ask most Latin Americans.

  7. “…probably better than the Soviets” ??!?
    With all due respect, Joanne, have you ever heard of the New Economic Program and the starvation of millions, or the Gulag, or the bloody purges? Do you really mean to go there?

  8. scannerca says:

    Shimshon, is mutual disdain for “imperialism” by western progressives and eastern traditionalists a shared “basic moral value”? Are there other, more basic values that are shared or, more obviously, are not shared?

  9. Joanne says:

    Yaacov, I was talking about foreign policy. I thought that was understood.

    Of course I’m not saying that US domestic system of governance was only “probably” better than that of the Soviets.

  10. David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 07/09/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  11. Joanne-
    Even so- the bloody repression and captivity of the Warsaw Pact and the heartless exploits of the proxies in South East Asia- How only probably?

  12. Cynic says:


    You wrote
    That we didn’t conquer these countries, but preferred to rule through proxies, …
    The U.S. benign? Just ask most Latin Americans.

    With respect to Brazil, how so?
    In the many years I lived there I never once was informed how those “Yanky go Home” types pulled it off.
    If there were Brazilians who were prepared to sell their Patria for a mess of pottage it was not through force of arms or diplomacy.

    Just as we are witnessing Arab propaganda nowadays so there was and exists a Latin American version where all the ills of British and French exploitation was aglomerated with that of the CIA to excuse their inept and corrupt governments.
    For all the ills that Peron inflicted on Argentina it is America that gets blamed?
    Seems that one thing we can find in all societies is that human failing of projecting and blaming the current scapegoat for their own failings.

  13. Joanne says:

    Brazil I didn’t know much about, but I learned recently that in the early Sixties, the US government tried to overthrow the gov’t of Joao Goulart because it thought he was too left wing.

    As for the Soviet bloc, yeah that’s a really good point. I was thinking of the Third World.

  14. shimshon says:

    Disdain for imperialism is a normative stance and one that has only been internalized on a large scale in the modern period. Declaring that Britain was an empire in the 18th cent was a compliment so its not obviously a criticism, it’s a shared value. there are a number of “shared” values. if you’re interested look into the philosophy of Jacques Maritain or natural law theory in general. if you read the Arab press you would be surprised how often the frame their arguments in terms of human rights. this doesn’t mean that the have a detailed understanding of the concept (including recognizing jews a having equal rights) but they still use it as the basis of their arguments, and in their own language… ie not simply for western ears.

  15. Michael B says:

    “You’d think the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran never happened.” Joanne

    It’s the real world out there, not some imagined ideal world or utopia that warrants a comparison. More pointedly, the Islamic revolution of 1979? That’s something you prefer to Massadegh being overthrown and the Shah of Iran? Imo there are no simple answers but that is, precisely, the point.

    As to Vietnam, here are some numbers that pertain to post-April, 1975, South Vietnam:

    + 65,000 South Vietnames were executed

    + many thousands of suicides among the South Vietnamese

    + 250,000 South Vietnamese died in Soviet styled gulags and Maoist styled “reeducation” camps

    + a million South Vietnamese boat people, tens of thousands of which died at sea and other points

    + there were an additional few hundred thousand – appx. 400,000 – South Vietnamese civilians killed by the Viet Cong and other North Vietnamese during the period c. 1954 – 1975

    Then again, it’s wonderful to compare American actions in S.E. Asia with ideality and remain oblivious to what occurred in the real world, post-1975, not to mention Cambodia and even Laos.

    All worth mentioning and remembering more pointedly since we’re now, in the halls of Congress, deciding on withdrawing from Iraq in terms of when to do so, how and under what conditions, etc.

  16. r.k. heiung says:

    “Western values”… is that what they are, scannerca?

    So Dar al Islam must represent “Eastern values,” no?

    How multicultural of you, not to mention incredibly arrogant and ignorant. Ahhh – The Noble Savage.

    You have billions of people inhabiting the Eastern hemishpere of this world who would spit in the face of Islamic subjugation and its concomitant so-called “eastern values”: enslavement, child abuse, honor killing, theocratic hegemony, institutionalized raping and beating of women, summary executions and mutilations, educating children in the glorification of murdering unbelieving ‘infidels’…

    Islam does not represent any values but Islamic values. It does not represent the “values” of the people of the Eastern hemishpere any more than the Mafia represents the “values” of Italians.

    Islam breeds like malaria in swamps of an ignorant populace ruled by corrupt tyranical maniacs spouting conspiracy theories to explain their own failed societies – unexplainable failures of states fat with oil revenues, always ready for war but no educational infrastructure, the worst medical treatment on earth, where a person’s every movement is controlled by insane Imams with rulings on everything from how to clip toe nails to how to beat women so it won’t show in non-hajib ‘foreign’ environments, where ‘prayer services’ function as the Nazi beer-halls of the 30’s, encitements to violence over any perceived ‘insult,’ whipping up the frenzied faithful to take to the streets to do the needed initmidation work for their fat, lazy, coward leaders….

    No. They are a pitiful minority played up by the psuedo-leftist press as the teaming underclass looking for their ‘rights,’ they are not the fastest growing religion in the world, another lie shrieked daily from the dupes in the press – they are deluded, self-hating and self-defeating but capable of much damage as they take as many as possible with them on their bellicose flaming suicide run.

    But other than that, I think they’ll fit right in with this new transnational, hand-holding utopia of a world without judgment.

  17. Richard Landes says:

    response to r.k. heiung — as someone said to me after my Herzliya address: “no, tell us what you really think.

    i think this issue of western, or progressive values, vs. islamic values has a great deal of significance.

    i specifically chose the word “progressive” because as far as i understand, all efforts to undermine israel come from that perspective and aim at presenting israel as a “right-wing,” imperialist, colonialist, messianic settler state. so when people like my radio-show critic or Walt-Mearsheimer want to deny Israel the “moral high ground,” that’s the value-system they either implicitly or explicitly evoke.

    i think that most muslim invocations of human rights — in english or in arabic — represent various degrees of demopathic discourse. as shimshon points out, the muslims have a limited grasp of notions like human rights — doesn’t apply to jews, for example, (unless that means “protected/dhimmi rights”). the demopath (or the “free rider”) only invokes human rights when it’s to his own advantage.

    it’s not clear just what kind of overlap there is between western “progressive values” and those of islam. as fat man points out, there are arabic/muslim terms for condemning most of the things that progressives would condemn.

    the big difference btw progressive values and most others, is that most others are zero-sum/us-them values (ie what’s good for us isn’t good for you, and that’s tough on you), whereas progressive values try for positive-sum (win-win, we look for what’s good for both of us). of course not all interactions can be positive sum, and one of the (utopian) errors we westerners often make is assuming that if there’s a zero-sum interaction that’s to our advantage that’s somehow bad and evil.

    i personally think that positive-sum, like oxygen, needs to be part of a larger atmospheric mix. you may not want much “hard zero sum” (i only win if you lose), but if you can’t look out for yourself, then who are you? it’s the difference btw a sixth commandment that reads “thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not murder.”

  18. Richard Landes says:

    the question of US imperialism is obviously vexed, and my defense of american foreign policy in the post obviously a bit polyannish. but there are two points i was trying to make:

    1) as opposed to the “neo-colonial” thesis, it’s important to realize the degree to which American foreign policy has been remarkably generous, positive-sum, and hands off. this gets sticky of course, because no nation as powerful as the USA, in a world of globalized contacts and impacts, can afford to be non-interventionist/isolationist. and no country that intervenes in the lives of others, can do so without making errors, negatively affecting the lives of many people, etc. i just think that when one considers the kind of culture that imperialism emerges from (one that encourages libido dominandi, that believes it’s task is to rule over others, that views borders as infinitely expandable, that registers “success” in terms of how much of the map it can color with its own color, that adheres to “rule or be ruled”), then the US (and Israel) are the least imperialist dominant military powers in the history of imperialism the world over. and to call them imperialist or neo-imperialist is to misrepresent reality in critical ways.

    2) that if there’s any “imperialist” ideology out there today worthy of the name, it’s islamism and its “armed wing” global jihad. this is a terrifying phenomenon, which our “progressive” obsession with labeling america and israel (neo-)imperialist blinds us to. (here european resentment and “progressive” MOS play a key and nefarious role.) monotheistic imperialism (one god, one ruler, one religion) is among the more dangerous political interpretations of monotheism – indeed it gives monotheism and religion in general a bad name. time to call a spade a spade, not a heart a spade and a spade a heart.

  19. Neshri says:

    2) that if there’s any “imperialist” ideology out there today worthy of the name, it’s islamism and its “armed wing” global jihad. this is a terrifying phenomenon, which our “progressive” obsession with labeling america and israel (neo-)imperialist blinds us to. (here european resentment and “progressive” MOS play a key and nefarious role.) monotheistic imperialism (one god, one ruler, one religion) is among the more dangerous political interpretations of monotheism – indeed it gives monotheism and religion in general a bad name. time to call a spade a spade, not a heart a spade and a spade a heart.

    Comment by Richard Landes — July 9, 2007 @ 10:54 pm


  20. Eliyahu says:

    R K Heiung, Ni hao ma?
    You made your point very eloquently. I suppose it has to be repeated over and over that Islam represents a unique set of values, beliefs, and practices that are quite distinct from those of East Asia and South Asia. Indeed, from a historical standpoint, Islam was influenced by some of the same ancient cultures/civilizations that influenced the ancient West; to wit, Judaism, Christianity, Greek philosophy, Roman governance. Further, Islam uses many terms that are close to Jewish and/or Christian terms. Likewise, many personalities from the Jewish Bible and from the Christian New Testament turn up in the Quran and Muslim tradition. Yet, those terms and these personalities have a much different meaning in the Muslim context. Martyr means witness as does shahid, but the Muslim concept of martyr [= the one who dies in a jihad, killing and being killed] is far from the Jewish and Christian notion of martyr [in Judaism: harugey hamalkhut — metu `al qiddush haShem]. Hence, in its historical origins, Islam is closer to the West than to East and South Asia. Yet, terms and personalities, like martyrdom, that seem so familiar, are fundamentally different. Indeed, Islam is sui generis. Further, in my view, it was outrageous of Edward Said to have equated Islam with the Orient. Not only does Islam have little to do in its origins with India, China, etc., but Islam wrecked the ancient Middle East. The Roman Empire called what is today the Middle East simply the Orient [Oriens in Latin]. The ancient Orient was a center of civilization. The Arab/Muslim conquest wrecked the ancient Orient [Egypt through Persia], submerging peoples, languages, cultures, civilizations. The Orient has never recovered. And most of the Middle East is in a sorry state, except for where the artificial prosperity of oil money –basically wealth that the recipients did not work for– has raised living standards in some ways, giving new meaning to the word kitsch.

    We ought to also bear in mind that when we say “Western”, we are talking about modern Western civilization, not the medieval which was barbarous in many ways.

  21. scannerca says:

    R K Heiung,
    Without considering pots and kettles here, those were questions, not statements! I appreciate the responses of those who have taken them as such.

    But yes, there were certain assumptions behind the questions:

    Are there “western” values (and/or moral standards), as in: “Judeo-Christian”, and/or “natural rights” and/or “humanistic” and/or, even “progressive”, as RL puts them; as differentiated from those sets of values which are not inclusive of the above? To what degree are the “non-Westerrn” sets of values the same as or different from “ours”?

    You have clearly suggested the values of one group which aren’t the same as ours, but now what? To what extent can we treat all “non-Westerners” as if they hold “our” values, i.e., using the same moral norms to judge them as we would use in judging ourselves? Or, as I asked above, “Can non-Western states (and non-state actors) which do not hold to these standards be accorded the same rights as if they do hold them?” Will (do) they accept being treated in this manner? How do we deal with those who do not accept that “equal treatment”? How do we deal with those who wish to impose their value systems on us?

  22. Eliyahu says:

    Scannerca, your closing questions in fact challenge the rationale for the UN. I would ask a somewhat different question: Should countries that fundamentally do not agree that Jews have equal human rights be allowed to decide matters concerning Jews, concerning Israel? As we know, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc. subscribe to the so-called Cairo Declaration of Human Rights under Islam. This program in effect cancels much or most of the universal human rights principles enunciated in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Actually, many or most states signing the Cairo Declaration had earlier signed the Universal Declaration. But the two documents cannot be reconciled. Now, what justice is there in allowing state signatories of the Cairo Declaration to decide matters for non-Muslims??

  23. scannerca says:

    Scannerca, your closing questions in fact challenge the rationale for the UN.

    Interesting! Hadn’t particularly applied those questions to that line of thinking, previously. As the UN, itself, and the UDHR were both established under more or less “Western” aegis, is there any point in continuing them when the bulk of the membership is now “non-Western”?

    But then the question arises: “What do we do in their stead?” The “alliance system” all over again?

  24. Richard Landes says:

    Here’s a response from the person who wrote the initial letter in this post, and wishes to remain anonymous.

    U.S. foreign policy created Israel

    United States’ foreign policy created the state of Israel in the days following World War II when President Harry Truman used this nation’s enormous influence in the United Nations of that day to promote international recognition of the Jewish state.

    A pivotal aspect of Truman’s thinking of that time involved the considerable measure of anti-Semitism that prevailed throughout Europe, a fact of life which made settlement of the large number of Jewish war refugees difficult, if not impossible, in their old homelands. Though anti-Semitism has endless origins, some ancient, some modern, the root cause of this particular aspect of hatred of the Jews involved a conviction widespread in Europe that Jews had been instrumental in decades of Stalinist suppression of eastern European Christianity. That charge is generally born out by the obvious fact of large number of secular Jews having participated in the secret police and political control apparatus set up by the Soviets from the time of the early revolutions onward.

    Reasons for U.S. support for Israel

    Historically speaking, there is nothing unusual about a victorious power such as the United States rewarding its friends after a war even by the somewhat munificent act of establishing an entire country. Britain and France had done approximately the same thing at the time of the Versailles peace conference following World War I by rewarding Italy with the Austrian Tyrol for Italy’s having changed sides in the War. Czechoslovakia had been created not so much to reward anybody, but to eliminate the power of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, one of the two great European monarchies that had gone to war against the Allies in the World War. The German Empire, by contrast, had collapsed even before the end of the War with the abdication of Emperor Wilhelm. What is surprising in the case of America’s promotion of Israel is that the Jews of Europe had done relatively little of significance to promote the Allies’ success in World War II whereas, for example, many another country east of the Elbe had fought valiantly in opposition to the Axis forces only to find themselves returned back to Soviet rule at the end of the War. However, in support of Israel’s cause had been the undeniable fact of Arab collaboration with the Hitler regime even before World War II. Essentially, in those first years following World War II, the Arabs were looked upon as persona non gratae in the foreign policy offices of Washington.

    Other factors as well argued for American promotion of the Zionist idea. At the close of World War II, American big business was clamoring for an opening up of Middle East oil to U.S. exploitation. To that point, Middle East oil had been controlled by British and Dutch interests. In fact, the availability of such oil had spelled the essential difference between victory and defeat for Britain in both World Wars. But with Washington now signaling to London that it would not countenance continuation of the old European colonial system, Middle East oil seemed to be up for grabs for the first time in history. What was needed from the American point of view were governments in the Middle East that would be sympathetic to the American cause. Consequently, all across the Gulf region “royal” governments were set up (mostly by CIA clandestine intervention) partly to give Americans political and economic access to the region’s resources, partly to frustrate the rising tide of democratic aspirations of the Arab man in the street who understandably demanded his own piece of the oil action as the old European colonial system began to collapse. Israel fit into America’s plans for regional domination as yet one more client state with its pariah status in the Middle East guaranteeing an ever more faithful ally.

    Problems with the American-Israel tie-up

    The strategic fit which some had seen to exist between America and Israel became a matter of dispute in the Eisenhower era when foreign policy planners such as Secretary of State John Foster Dulles began sensing a need to rebuild U.S.-Arab relations to help check the obvious inclination of the Soviets to advance into the region. Dulles, a man whose foreign policy credentials went back to glittering family ancestors and whose own extensive experience as a Wall Street lawyer and representative of the great Anglo-Protestant establishment of an earlier day that had essentially ruled America up to World War II, as well may have been mindful of the considerable anti-Semitic feeling that existed among America’s social and political elite of that time. Little by little, therefore, American foreign policy began to distance itself from the Jewish state as the 1950s wore on.

    The Golden Era of American-Israeli relations

    By the early 1960s, however, such notions were being put aside in favor of a wholesale commitment to Israel by the newer breed of American politician – John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Lyndon Baines Johnson — who began shipping vast supplies of American arms and financial aid to the Jewish state in volumes that actually proved embarrassing for everyone but truly died-in-the-wool Zionists. As well, American military and foreign policy secrets were being leaked to Israel, sometimes to disastrous consequences for the American people and its government.

    Causes for the shift

    Central to the shift in U.S. policy toward Israel had been a growing conviction on the part of the American Jewish community that Israel represented, symbolically at least, preservation of Jewish ethnic and religious security and spiritual refutation of the horrors of the Holocaust. These themes were reinforced by productions that appeared in the American print and picture media spotlighting an interpretation of history that was particularly favorable to the Zionist cause, especially in matters dealing with European history where everything anti-Semitic was automatically considered to be bad and everything pro-Jewish was automatically judged to be good.

    Jewish cultural response to this propaganda was overwhelming. Israel bond drives took on the air of an American political rally and arguments by outsiders in favor of a more even-handed approach to U.S. Middle Eastern foreign policy were treated as the equivalent of religious infidelity.

    “Dispensationalist pre-millennialist” Protestants and Israel

    By the late 1960s, a new political wrinkle was beginning to influence the American-Israel equation. A peculiar form of fundamentalist Protestantism sometimes known as “dispensationalist pre-millennialism” was becoming politically powerful in the American south and southwest. Made up mostly of white political conservatives reacting against the newly-emergent racial leftism that had come to characterize the Democratic Party in the south, this “dispensationalist pre-millennialism” grew powerful in the Republican Party, even supplanting the old-line east-coast Protestant establishmentarian control that had essentially dominated American society since the Civil War. A central tenant of this new doctrine was that religious salvation depended on Christian support of the Jews. Logically enough, such “dispensationalist pre-millennialism” became active in support of Israel, its 30 million or so adherents becoming important foot soldiers in a political reformation that sponsored a new view of America as being on a special mission from God to evangelize, democratize, and capitalize the world. While Jews, even Zionist Jews, generally viewed such a proposition as whimsical at best, the combined power of “dispensationalist pre-millennialist” fundamentalist Protestants and American Jewish Zionists generally proved decisive in advancing the Israel cause.

    In the broader political sphere, this movement took the name of neo-conservatism whose interests went far beyond the matter of American-Israeli relations. Neo-conservative policies and programs expressed in the Reagan, Clinton, and two Bush administrations promoted religious activism in domestic politics of a kind never before seen in American politics, and to a degree that America’s traditional doctrine of separation of church and state seemed threatened. Fundamentalist preachers enthused over their new-found powers in the secular world of Washington politics, and neo-conservative foreign policy planners encouraged repeated military incursions in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East in order to pursue objectives that seemed to have about them a kind of religious-spiritual overtone. Until the nation’s somewhat disappointing incursion into Iraq, Americans seemed not to mind (or even notice) that the basic political philosophy that had ruled the history of their foreign policy had changed under their feet.

    Good fit and bad

    For the Zionist cause, this transformation in American politics had been a Godsend. A state founded on the ancient religious doctrine of the Old Testament, Israel fit in nicely with the newly-emergent American vision of itself as a proselytizing, reforming instrumentality of God willing to do battle with the forces of evil worldwide however they might be defined.

    The real Israel, however, reflected this kind of thinking only in the minds of the “dispensationalist pre-millennialists” themselves. A nation made up mostly of educated, essentially-secular Jews largely from European cultural roots, Israel seemed to have far more in common with the great secular societies of Western Europe than with the “pre-millennialist” emotional bible-thumping of this new-age America. The problem faced by Israel is that Europe remains skeptical of Harry Truman’s resettlement plan for the Jews in the lands once known as Palestine because 7 million Middle Easterners who call themselves Palestinians backed up by 200 million Arab-Muslims are little disposed to forgive and forget. On the Israel side are perhaps 20 million Jews worldwide who remain committed to the somewhat difficult existential notion that there never was a Palestine, 30 million fundamentalist Protestants of the American southland who see the world in Old Testament terms, and an unknown number of American non-fundamentalist neo-cons who simply enjoy the idea of playing Rambo worldwide from time to time. In the middle is a brand new America trying to figure out what God really expects of it.

    American Jews and Israel

    Historically speaking, there is nothing particularly unique about one group proselytizing in favor of its particular foreign policy interest. Anglo-Protestants took America to world war twice in the 20th Century to aid “their” England. More recently large numbers of Latinos and American blacks have been pumping the well on behalf of “their” Latin America and “their” Africa. However, if such behavior is predictable, it is also dangerous for the welfare of a pluralistic society such as America made up of often-competing and even conflicting groups. Who is to say, for example, that some day Arab-Muslims might not elect to do precisely the same thing for “their” Middle East as their numbers and influence rise in American society? The simple fact is that most Americans share only a common present, not a past, and therefore Old Country ethnic or religious biases should be left more or less at the nation’s doorstep when one becomes a citizen. Dual-loyalty is more than dangerous. It is destabilizing.

    The path that led America to the striking turn of events where it finds itself saddled with the responsibility of caring for a foreign country is not hard to understand. Israel was, and largely still is, a nation culturally-Western in its orientation, and presents a far easier image for Americans to understand than Arab-Muslim societies. And where historical factors might detract from the overall “Israel story”, there is always Hollywood to rewrite the historical script.

    Europe and Israel

    Elsewhere in the world, no such circumstances prevail. Western Europe has always been largely devoid of Zionist propaganda partly because it lies far closer to the Middle East than does America, and partly because Europe’s rapidly-growing population of Arab-Muslim immigrants imparts a different wrinkle to Continental politics.

    Europe and America

    Europe’s skepticism about Israel, however, is based on far deeper matters than simple doubts about the wisdom of preempting Palestinian lands. Europe continues to doubt America’s fascination with racial minorities newly-emergent in the 1960s. More confident of its majority ethos, Europe wonders about the wisdom of making minority values and minority protection the essence of American social life. And of course what is more symbolic of minorityism on a grand international scale than “brave Israel” holding back the “majority” hoards of Arab Muslims ready to do evil with the plucky Zionist state?

    In this somewhat romantic and not-wholly-accurate vision of world affairs Americans seems to take a special pride if not outright enjoyment which Europeans find puzzling and even disturbing. From a distance, such thinking appears emotional, self-serving, anti-intellectual, and, at bottom, substantially at variance with historical reality. While Jewish history might not exactly be some ultimate expression of malevolence, it does seem to have sufficient complexity and even contradictory character about it to make one pause and think before running off and starting a new nation on property claimed by others.

    Middle Eastern peoples

    Right or wrong, the essential missing link in this debate involves the people of the Middle East themselves. Backward, religiously superstitious, and uneducated, they are a people badly exploited both by the West and their own indolent and venal leadership. Politically impotent, they are forced to seek out symbolic causes upon which to vent their anger, one of the most readily available, of course, being Israel and the very real insult that it implies to the Palestinian people.

    Americans and Middle Easterners

    More tragically yet, many Americans seem to be almost as unsophisticated and isolated from the mainstream of world affairs as are Middle Easterners, and therefore understand little of the reality of world events. Theirs, primarily, is a world made up of historical fantasy, religious imagery, and simple lust for violence. And being thus, Americans are easy prey for the clever politicians who periodically take them back to the war they seek. If the Middle East serves primarily as a psychological crutch for Americans, it also serves an equal purpose for Zionists who rather pathetically fear nearly every political gathering other than their own. The root cause of their insecurity involves the utterly human unwillingness to face one’s tainted social history – a phenomenon shared by just about every American from the rich WASP to the impoverished black. And so Americans retreat not into history books (preferably those written before 1945) but into the movie theatre where every American becomes Gregory Peck leading the 8th Air Force over Schweinfurt; every Zionist is Menachem Begin heading the Irgun; and every “dispensationalist pre-millennialist” Protestant is his own benevolent Elmer Gantry. This is the America we live in and these are the problems we pose to the world.

  25. Michael B says:

    A well articulated set of complaints by our interlocutor. Can readily agree with some, bristle at some others as representing too facile, reductionist and even caricatured categories (even allowing for the need for generalizations), and more decidedly disagree with others. My own primary complaint is that a more positive set of programs is not offered, beyond the carefully drawn set of complaints; not to be too pedantic and to risk stating the obvious, but developing more positive interests and plans is a far more difficult task since it places one in the “vice grip” of all the realities that need to be faced.

    Still and absolute bare minimum, much food for thought is on offer, despite the absence of more positive programs and themes.

  26. Michael B says:

    As an aside, the adjacent post highlighting Martin Kramer’s “ideal realist” take on things very much is an exercise in coming to terms with a decidedly positive thesis, while also serving to answer W/M in a manner that almost supercedes W/M in that it uses “realist” assumptions, themes and interests; in the parlance of poker, it “sees and raises” W/M, and shows a far bette “hand.” Kramer’s exercise is very helpful.

  27. shimshon says:

    # 2o was a good post, just one quip. It wasn’t Edward Said who “equated Islam with the Orient.” The idea of oriental studies existed long before Said. Just look at the U of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. it has always included the Middle East. As B. Lewis explains in his essay in the NYRB responding to Said, Orientalism was one of the oldest areas of Western scholarship. It arose to around the same time that classical studies emerged to study the Greeks and Romans, only it studied Middle Eastern languages such as Hebrew and Arabic.

  28. Eliyahu says:

    Shimshon, I am aware that Oriental studies in Western universities go back to the first universities in the Middle Ages. They studied Hebrew, Aramaic [Syriac], and Arabic. The main reason was for the purpose of religious disputation and knowing the religious adversary. Conversion too was a conscious motive and fits into what I say in the previous sentence. However, at that time they did NOT, to my knowledge, equate Islam with the Orient. The Western [RC] church was still concerned with the various heresies among the Eastern churches, and with the rival “schismatic” Greek Orthodox church. The Byzantine empire was still considered part of The Orient. The RC church were not much concerned with the East farther to the East, although some churchmen were sent to the court of Genghis Khan.

    Just how did the notion of Orient get narrowed down to Islam? That is something that Said tries very hard to promote. I believe that before Said the Orient was seen in the academic world as much more varied than Islam alone [and we’re not even talking about the Far East]. Yes, Oriental studies existed before Said, as you say. But, as I understand things, the notion of Orient was not narrowed down to Islam, which seems to have been one of Said’s purposes [to narrow it down]. The ancient East / Oriens was not all Islamic, while the Arabs lived mainly on the fringes of the ancient East. I read your post. So Oriental studies existed before Said. But was the notion narrowed down to Islam??

  29. Eliyahu says:

    Our anonymous critic has some bizarre or idiosyncratic beliefs. Yes, in some areas, such as the Ukraine, Jews were hated for the fact that many had become functionaries of the Communist regimes. But Jews were hated in the Russian Empire and elsewhere in Eastern [and Western] Europe long before the Bolshevik coup d’etat of November 1917. Further, what makes Anon think that the Jews wanted to go back to those countries [rather than the majority populations there not wanting the Jews]? To Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Byelorus, etc? Anon does not mention that the Jewish National Home was a part of international law since the San Remo conference of 1920, and had been endorsed by the League of Nations in 1922. Britain violated its mandate to rule the JNH by –inter alia– preventing Jewish refugees from finding refuge in their internationally designated national home starting in 1939. Anon seems unaware of that. Instead, Anon seems to think that the real US policymakers in the State Dept & CIA cared at all that Arab nationalism had been pro-Nazi during the war. In fact, the USA & UK & France & USSR opposed prosecuting Haj Amin el-Husseini, the British-appointed mufti of Jerusalem and chief Arab Holocaust collaborator, at Nuremberg. Husseini’s return to the Middle East from France was facilitated in 1946 by several Allied powers. The same State Dept that tried to prevent rescue of Jews during the Holocaust, that did not support military airstrikes to stop the mass murder machine, has been pro-Arab all along, and crucially in the 1945 to 1949 period. Anon seems to realize this by placing all responsibility on Truman for US recognition of Israel.

    I’m glad that Anon is able to read Truman’s mind, but some page references might have been helpful. In any case, Truman was not the only one who made policy. On the whole, Anon is long on opinion and conjecture but short on solid information. Anon fails to mention FDR’s crucial meeting with King Abdul-Aziz ibn Saud on the US warship Quincy in the Gulf of Suez in early 1945. Frankly, Anon seems to be an intelligent person who is much more ignorant about Arab-Israeli affairs and US policy than he believes himself to be. His/her thinking seems to revolve around a lot of old and new prejudices. Moreover, his/her view of US national interest is crafted to fit in with an anti-Israel stance. He really knows little about the Dulles brothers’ operations in the Middle East. He actually thinks that the CIA and Dulles opposed Soviet weapons supplies to Egypt. Go read Miles Copeland’s The Game of Nations. By the way, why did Pres Ike insist that Nasser be kept in power and why did he insist that Israeli troops evacuate Sinai without a peace treaty with Egypt??

    In fact, Anon should spend about 2 months reading. Read old books from the 1940s and 1950s. Read widely. Read Time mag and Life mag. Read ARAMCO WORLD. Learn about how the Foreign Tax Credit was used to enrich the Saudi royals, making them the major recipients of US foreign aid of all time. On this matter, see these links, inter alia:

    Stay off cigarettes and booze for that 2 month period. Read widely, think, study, compare versions. Then come back and talk to us.

  30. Michael B says:

    Eliyahu, I hesitate to step into the fire unnecessarily, especially so as it’s of secondary importance, but when is it ever warranted to bring up names like Yagoda, Kaganovich (who were no mere functionaries) and others in terms of the origins and later stages of the Bolshevik era? I understand the egregious uses such criticisms have been put to, but to acknowledge such criticisms in a temperate and well proportioned sense is not to legitimize less temperate criticisms, it is to place them within historical perspective. Part of that perspective is the entire set of problems related to assimilationist vs. anti-assimilationist movements and within the European and peripheral geographies Bolshevism, and all its excesses, can be broadly configured within anti-assimilationist trends. Civilization and the maintenance thereof is a rough-hewn business. Acknowledging as much, to the degree it’s warranted and placed commensurately within European and broader histories, is not to become an adherent of the Protocols and similar hatreds and fables.

    And btw, it’s well known that Eisenhower’s primary regret as President, as indicated in his memoirs, was requiring Israel to retreat from the Sinai. Regrets don’t rollback and repair history, but they do add perspective.

  31. Diagnosing the Left

    It is always problematic to attempt to diagnose populations or political opponents using Psychiatric nomenclature; at the same time, it is extremely tempting. Most of us imagine our ideas to be reality based and rational. As such, when people disagree

  32. […] alt and Mearsheimer, the “realist” proponents of what some of us believe to be a suicidal foreign policy are runn […]

  33. […] ven if you’re part of the PCP paradigm, you are not irretrievably committed to folly as are W-M. The Lobby by David Re […]

  34. fp says:


    what do you mean?

    are you suggesting that jews must acknowledge COLLECTIVELY their contributions to bolshevism? if so
    were those individuals acting on behalf of all jews? where they even the majority?

    Careful not to fall into the trap that judt did and which wiseltier called “reproducing anti-semitism”


    Are you implying the rabid hatred of jews and israel on the left is rational???? is there any relationship between their explications of the hatred and reality?

    an ideology that scapegoats a people for what are clearly failures of their own elites and population is hysteria, not rationality.

  35. fp says:

    Well, a lot has been said here, perhaps too much.

    The simple and short of it is that the listener’s comments demonstrate the basis of Bernard Lewis’ description of the US as harmless for its enemies and treacherous with its allies.

    The problem is that americans are instilled with the joint notion that they are always right and therefore they must win fast, easy and cheap. Whenever they don’t they (a) tend to give in (b) infer that the victor is right.

    Together with a long period of lack of competition and the collapse of the education system which yields ignorance and inability to reason, this behavior is at the root of american decline.

    And it turns out that in decline americans are not any different than anybody else. They are not unique as they were indoctrinated to believe.

  36. Michael B says:


    No, and I think you well know no collective responsibility is implied in the reductionist manner you’re suggesting. I will stick with what I stated, which implies a collective or shared sensibility (I hesitate to use the term “responsibility” due to some connotations I wouldn’t share) only in the broad sense indicated, i.e. “the entire set of problems related to assimilationist vs. anti-assimilationist” currents, along with the other qualifications noted in my comment.

    Likewise, given all the caveats I (rightly) placed in my comment, I find it odd you’re even asking the question in the first place.

    Likewise still, you failed to answer the question I did ask in the comment you’re responding to. You have a habit of doing that, or when you do answer questions it’s in such a vague, diffuse manner that little coherence is discernible, much less the willingness to be held responsible for a more positive, assertive statement of your own. Placing one’s self in the position of asking, but failing to responsibly answer, questions is mere sophistry and evasion, having the effect of placing you in the role of “authority” absent shared responsibility and any more genuine give-and-take.

    (I wouldn’t have seen this if you hadn’t linked to this thread from the recent Volokh post, you’re a month and a half late here.)

  37. Cultural Insanity – Part I – The Diagnosis

    I’ ve been quiet for a week and as you might know by now that means I’ ve been working on something big

  38. First Justice, Then Peace says:

    Almost as glaring an error as stating the US was a key actor in the creation of Israel, is omitting the role of Britain.

    “There are three major players in the creation of the State of Israel: the UN which voted its creation, the Zionist movement which had worked for decades to create a viable candidate for statehood, ready for UN approval and with all the institutions necessary to hit the ground running, and the Israeli Defense Forces which…”

    Um, yeah. Balfour Declaration, Peel Commission…etc etc.
    I guess the UN, you know, just out of the blue voted for the creation of Israel. Im sure Britain didnt have much of a role in giving up their colony..not to mention the state of international law at the time assigned sovereignty based on the ethnic majority of a given region’s population. I think fair and objective observers see a moral problem in the creation of a state for and by Jews in a territory populated overwhemingly by Christian and Muslim Arabs.

  39. […] by now that means I’ve been working on something big Here is the First of a two part essay-In a recent post on his own blog Richard Landes printed a letter he had received from someone who had heard him […]

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